Like Pavlov’s dog, every time I hear a beep my hand moves reflexively to my smartphone. I quickly thumb through my recent alerts to find the source of the notification and find closure only when I’ve tapped away all the unopened emails, unread messages and unchecked updates. But sometimes, my phone stares blankly back at me, and I realize that little beep didn’t come from where I’d thought.
The other evening, I was winding down my day with a little laundry, dishwashing, and a few follow up notes on a project when I heard a beep. Phone number one was unfruitful so I glanced at phone number two. When it, too, showed no signs of life I checked IM on my work laptop, then Skype on my personal laptop, and then the mystery got deeper. I checked the dishwasher, the dryer, the alarm system – all to no avail. Then that ominous beep pinged me one more time and the mystery was solved – it was the brownie I was warming in the microwave. I’d checked seven places in a six foot radius – SEVEN PLACES – before it dawned on me that the only thing beeping was the only thing that could actually beep some thirty years ago. It was official: smart things make me stupid.
Signs have been pointing to this conclusion for years and each time I forgo thought in favor of a Google search or text someone in the next room instead of standing up the confirmation runs deeper. Just for fun, let’s explore the depths of the idiocy I’ve cultivated smart thing by smart thing:
Smart bathrooms: While I’ve mastered the deft apply-toilet-seat-cover-and-sit-before-automatic-flush-steals-it-away move, not a day goes by that I’m not outsmarted by a paper towel dispenser. Let’s make an exception to the monopoly rule and just let Kimberly Clark devise a one-wave-fits-all solution. Please.
Smart kitchens: My washer, dryer and refrigerator are all under a year old but are already blinking, chiming and chirping their needs at me. Change my filter! Update my time zone! Wash me! Check my temperature! I preferred it when my Frigidaire didn’t have so much lip.
Smart doors: Ever walk up to the exit of a store and just stand there? And then when nothing happens take a step back and then forward again and maybe jump a tiny bit? And then when the closed doors still stare indignantly back at you go to a different door and have the cart guy open it for you with a dramatic pull and stifle a snicker? Me neither.
Smart cars: I drive a decidedly unsmart ’99 Mercedes that doesn’t even have a tape deck. This bothers me until I realize no one else knows how to parallel park by using only their eyes – a small victory.
Smartphones: In addition to the aforementioned lobotomy I slowly inflict upon myself every time I Google “how to turn off dryer filter notification” or “how to spell lobotomy,” I also play Candy Crush so much it’s affecting my social skills in airports.
Smart fitness: While it’s thoughtful that my smart watch nudges me into action when my I’m idle too long and that my smart scale will gently scold me tomorrow for eating this brownie, I yearn for a simpler time when I got off the couch because Saved by the Bell was over and not because something was beeping at me.
In this frantic, bustling world, I like that I can rely on a simple audio cue to let me know it’s time to do something. But when that something is eating a brownie, it’s clearly a sign of stupidity that I need a reminder.
Have you experienced any dumbing-down side effects courtesy of your smart things?
Smart machines aren’t so smart afterall.
In a way, we are becoming slaves to technology. Example: Snail mail is passe and nobody any longer remembers writing by hand!
It took me about 2 years to memorize my wife’s cell phone # bc it was always programmed into my phones. I still don’t know my kids’ numbers. Yet I can remember a friends # from the early 80s and can probably dial it blindfolded on a rotary phone.
I have absolutely no idea how people made travel plans before the internet. Checking routes, booking hotels, maps, making reservations, planning excursions or even just where to eat when you get there – did people just go to places sight-unseen and trusting that everything would work out without so much as a CitySearch? Yikes!
It never fails. When I have to wash my hands in a smart-bathroom, first I try to wet my hands. Then I pull my hands back out from under the spigot, wait three seconds, and then try to fool the faucet into thinking I have new hands. I often think I’m a ghost.
Or that I should just start carrying large vats of hand sanitizer so I can forget the whole thing.
Nice article!Asking your phone to open your email by voice command when you can probably click on it is something that comes to mind.
Hilarious! I really enjoyed this. I fall prey to smart spigots and toilet flushing gizmos, thinking they’ll do their thing, when they don’t. Great piece!
Nice read. Communication overload dumbs me down….text messages, emails, cell phone, land line, Viber, Skype…Its just too much.
😀 i really enjoyed reading it.
I find myself engaging in some of the same rituals each night before I go to sleep. What’s almost worse, at times, than the beeping, is the little, red numbers indicating how many messages/alerts I have. Like you mention, it’s impossible to rest without clearing them all away!
I often find myself plagued by “Ghost Vibrate” as well; I always think my phone is buzzing away in my pocket, but it turns out just to be my imagination…
Dear White Elephant,
I bring greetings from India!
I completely identified with the crazy gadget situations you wrote about. I was born in the 1950s, so we graduated before electronics was invented (or even discovered !). So that’s my excuse for gadget-o-phobia. I didn’t know charming young writers born circa 1980 had the similar anxieties! Surely, you are joking…. But I liked your sense of humour.
I blog on wordpress too —my site is called kowieskorner. Be my guest!
I’m pretty sure I’m eventually going to come to the point where I can only spell the first half of words. I enter a few letters, and then my smart phone finishes the job. It’s a good thing I don’t have to worry about spelling bees anymore. All my answers would sound preposterous. “Preposterous. P-R-E-P-O- space.”
When I see a monitor or a television I always touch the screen thinking it’s touch screen it happens on a regular basis.One time I was in a lobby watching a tv that displayed events and I started poking at the TV screen. My boyfriend told me to quit expecting everything to be touch screen, but to his surprise it was touch screen. 😉 Today was different, at work I began tapping on a computer screen to make it scroll and realized that it was just a monitor. -_-
My phone always goes beep in the night. If I don’t turn it off. I don’t get to sleep. The dishwasher often catches me off guard though.
The picture is funny 😀